Scott Fowler

In noisy Superdome, Panthers must stay focused to get to 12-0

No matter the struggles this year, the Carolina Panthers discount the New Orleans Saints and quarterback Drew Brees (9) at their peril.
No matter the struggles this year, the Carolina Panthers discount the New Orleans Saints and quarterback Drew Brees (9) at their peril. AP

For those who have never been to the Superdome in New Orleans, let me describe the noise level when the Saints are playing poorly: It is leaf-blower loud.

When the Saints are playing well, however, it is jackhammer-loud. It can be painful and disconcerting. I have seen Carolina Panthers teams disintegrate in the face of that noise.

This one won’t disintegrate, of course, but it would be wise for the Panthers not to believe that a 4-7 New Orleans team that has lost three games in a row will simply roll over. Drew Brees is still there, and the Saints can still score (although they sure didn’t last week in a 24-6 loss to Houston).

Brees threw for seven touchdowns and 505 yards against the New York Giants earlier this season, remember. And Carolina only beat New Orleans 27-22 in Week 3 this season – with Brees on the bench.

▪  What New Orleans cannot do, however, is defend. While the Panthers are third in points scored per game this season (30.2), the Saints are dead last in points allowed (30.8) and already have seen bellicose defensive coordinator Rob Ryan get fired in midseason because of it. If you are an offensive player for Carolina Sunday, you’re going to have a lot of chances.

▪  Cam Newton has 30 games with a pass touchdown and a rushing TD in the same game. Only Steve Young has more of those in his career – he had 31. I think Newton will tie Young’s record Sunday.

▪  The Panthers scored a modest 27 against the Saints in September – I say “modest” because since then New Orleans has had games where it has allowed 34, 39, 47 and 49 points. I feel like this will be a game for awhile but that the Panthers’ superior running game and linebackers will ultimately make the difference. My pick: Carolina 38, New Orleans 19.

Fowler: sfowler@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @scott_fowler

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